AMDs soon-to-be-released Opteron processor has the potential to shake up the server market, but the question remains: Will major server vendors be willing to develop servers with it?
Its far too early to tell if Opteron-based servers will be able to eat into Xeon or Itanium server sales, but if AMD can swing some momentum to its side, things could get interesting in a hurry.
So why should you care? Well AMD is giving IT managers a platform that can run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications, providing a smooth transition point that isnt available from Intel.
Another potential reason to care is that the advancements made in this processor (things like putting the memory controller on the processor silicon) could give it a performance edge over current Xeon processors—even before you take into account the expanded memory addressing capabilities that 64-bit computing gets you.
Microsoft has already committed to supporting Opteron. Linux is also supported, via SuSE, which should pave the way for application vendors to jump aboard.
Even if Opteron winds up being as good as billed, AMD still needs to prove itself in the server field, where reliability requirements are far more intense than those in the workstation and desktop fields.
If established server vendors commit to supporting and building Opteron servers, it will go a long way toward building respectability for this new product line.
Sun seems to be hinting at building Opteron servers. If it does, and more vendors follow its lead, things could get interesting indeed.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at email@example.com.